Character design palettes versus environmental lighting & locational palettes

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Reverend Speed polycounter lvl 8
I hope this is the right place to put this post - if it needs to be relocated, please do so.

So, I've been making 3D models and using game engines for a while now, but I'm not professionally trained. Something I struggle with occasionally is creating a nice character design with a distinctive palette, then finding that it clashes with environmental lighting or is completely subsumed by it (eg. green character in reddish hell can look muddy, reddish character in reddish hell can disappear slightly).

I've solved similar issues in the past through, it seems like, luck or persistence - emphasising values, finding some neutral lighting in places, etc.

Just wondering if other folks have run into these issues or if anybody has any solutions or methodologies that I should look into.

I recognise that this is sort of an idiot-level question, but I'm hoping that risking the embarrassment and asking for advice will help me grow a bit, here. =/

Thanks in advance...!

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  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor

    Just wondering if other folks have run into these issues or if anybody has any solutions or methodologies that I should look into.
    This isn't an issue specific to games.  Learn about the advantages of using a limited palette.  A classic example is the Zorn palette of four colours.  Buy some cheap paints and practice mixing them.

    In the distant past, games were limited by the hardware to use a limited number of colours for every game.  This was a good thing in a weird way because it forced using a limited palette on every game. 


  • Eric Chadwick
    Look into color theory and art fundamentals. These kinds of skills are essential for Art Directors and Concept leads.

    For example

    And check out Art Bibles too
    http://wiki.polycount.com/wiki/Art_Bible
  • Reverend Speed
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    Reverend Speed polycounter lvl 8
    I do try to restrain myself to a limited palette for individual items, but I worry that the palettes get washed out by overall environmental lighting. I guess I need to manage that saturation...!

    Thank you for the advice, folks. Time to hit the books again, I guess...! =D
  • RN
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    RN polycounter
    Something I struggle with occasionally is creating a nice character design with a distinctive palette, then finding that it clashes with environmental lighting or is completely subsumed by it (eg. green character in reddish hell can look muddy, reddish character in reddish hell can disappear slightly).
    But that's what's supposed to happen, the environment lighting is supposed to interact with the character -- this is the only way to create a mood / atmosphere. A dark scene with a green fill light and bright yellow rim light, for example, it will affect your palette but the player still has the dark and bright hints to make out the shapes, forms and textures.

    Unless the lighting makes it more difficult to see, you can go creative with colors. There's this theoretical model that our color vision can adapt to different lighting schemes while still "estimating" the original color of objects, even when under non-neutral (i.e. colored) lights. The name of this behavior is called Color Constancy.

    You might also find some material under theatre / stage lighting, because this type of lighting changes a lot and needs to interact with theatrical costumes. See this thread for examples: https://polycount.com/discussion/183024/theatre-sets-for-inspiration-image-heavy/
    Most of what I found on a quick search is subjective though, stuff like "do this because it looks good":
    - http://thtr382.weebly.com/color1.html
    - https://www.iar.unicamp.br/lab/luz/ld/Diversos/maquiagem/Lights28.pdf
  • Reverend Speed
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    Reverend Speed polycounter lvl 8
    Thank you, RN! Will study those links.

    In case it's of any interest to folks, Riot published some guidelines on VFX which contains some slides that seem relevant to this issue...



    Maintaining these ranges (or similar) seems like a workable shorthand for retaining clarity of character against background with environment lighting... though obviously this will be modified by personal experience, taste, etc. Ultimately Colour Constancy can only go so far...!

    Might come back to this after some more experiments...! Thanks!
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